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ADA EMPLOYEE WHO NEVER TOLD EMPLOYER OF DISABILITY NOT REGARDED AS DISABLED The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an auto assembly worker with a chronic condition leading to blindness, an upper respiratory infection, hepatitis B, high blood pressure and a liver disorder was not regarded by his employer as having a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act because he never told his employer that he was disabled. Plaintiff, a worker in the chassis division of the Ford Motor Co., was absent from work for nine months due to his various ailments. Ford terminated plaintiff’s employment after he had exhausted his medical leave and failed to follow company leave procedures. Before the trial court, plaintiff argued that he had been terminated because Ford regarded him as having a disability. Amadio v. Ford Motor Co ., 2001 U.S. App. Lexis 1354 (7th Cir. 2001). Affirming summary judgment in favor of Ford, the 7th Circuit held that Ford could not have perceived that plaintiff had a disability because he never informed the company of his medical condition. The court further held that, even if Ford knew plaintiff had hepatitis B at the time of his termination, plaintiff could not show that Ford believed this condition substantially limited a major life activity and was therefore a disability as defined by the ADA. AGE DISCRIMINATION SUBJECTIVE CRITERIA RAISES INFERENCE OF PRETEXT Reversing the district court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the 5th Circuit has held that a metalworker established a prima facie case of age discrimination when he alleged that his employer used entirely subjective criteria in making the decision to terminate his employment. Medina v. Ramsey Steel Co ., 2001 U.S. App. Lexis 1168 (5th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff, a detailer in a metal shop, applied for promotions within the company several times but was denied each time by his employer, who told him that he lacked the right “ingredients” for the higher positions. In each instance, the positions remained open after plaintiff’s application, and were eventually awarded to substantially younger applicants. Plaintiff was eventually terminated, allegedly for poor performance, several months after he filed age discrimination charges with the Texas Commission on Human Rights. Reversing the district court, the 5th Circuit held that plaintiff made out a prima facie case under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act when he alleged that he was better qualified than the younger applicants who won the positions for which he had also applied. The court further noted that the employer’s use of entirely subjective criteria in making promotional decisions raised an inference of pretext. Finally, the court ruled that plaintiff had made out a retaliation claim by showing that the decision to terminate was made after the employer learned that plaintiff had filed discrimination charges. EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS COMPENSATORY DAMAGES AWARDED FOR BREACH OF ORAL CONTRACT Holding that a telecommunications company breached an oral agreement with one of its executives by terminating him without just cause and refusing to allow him to exercise stock options, the 3rd Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court granting plaintiff compensatory damages. Scully v. U.S. Wats Inc ., 2001 U.S. App. Lexis 1378 (3d Cir. 2001). Plaintiff was terminated without notice 18 months into a two-year oral contract under which he was entitled to stock options after he departed the company. The district court found that plaintiff’s employer terminated him because it had offered more stock options than it could actually fulfill. The district court also granted plaintiff $525,000 in compensatory damages, basing its calculation on the difference between plaintiff’s exercise price on the shares and the price of the same shares as publicly traded. The 3rd Circuit held that the district court’s approach to measuring damages was not unduly speculative because it considered the oral contract legally binding and calculated the damages from the date of plaintiff’s termination. The court further found that plaintiff was entitled to attorney fees and liquidated damages under Pennsylvania’s Wage Payment and Collection Law. EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS NO BREACH OF CONTRACT FOUND DESPITE ‘JUST CAUSE’ PROVISION The 7th Circuit has held that an employer’s alleged promise in its employee handbook not to demote its employees without just cause was undercut by a statement in the handbook that it was not a contract of employment. Workman v. United Parcel Service Inc ., 2000 U.S. App. Lexis 31548 (7th Cir. 2000). Relying on an employee handbook circulated by his employer, plaintiff alleged that the employer made a binding promise not to demote him without just cause, and that it breached this promise when it demoted him. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer on plaintiff’s breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims. Affirming the district court’s ruling, the 7th Circuit recognized that many states have laws providing that employee handbooks can create binding contracts if they contain clear offer language which the employee accepts by continuing to work after receiving it. However, Indiana does not have such a law, and the court held that even if it did and the handbook could be read to contain a clear promise not to demote an employee except for cause, the plaintiff’s contractual claim failed because of the statement in the handbook that it “is not a contract of employment and does not affect your rights as an employee.” According to the court, such a “clear and forthright” disclaimer is a complete defense to a breach of contract and promissory estoppel claim based on an employee handbook.

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